Dear Rat Brain,
Let’s face it, we spent about 90% of our teenage years, and the first part of adulthood so far, in relationships. And I spent 100% of that time trying to force you out of them.
Anxiety was toxic. I was toxic, because anxiety made me do erratic things like crying unexpectedly or having panic attacks or, gosh, needing emotional help from my peers and teachers. Looking back it’s no surprise you or I needed any of those things considering how isolated I was, and how few tools I had to deal with emotional upheaval.
And I had a fair bit of that thanks to coming out at the age of 12 or 13, then getting groomed into several emotionally toxic relationships where every other day was spent feeling guilty, ashamed, or trapped. And then even when it wasn’t toxic, it felt the same way. #justteenthings
Considering how turbulent those relationships were, there’s definitely no surprise that you’d keep showing up. And yet I’d say I’ve spent literally ten years – up until say, February 2018, when I finally called a break to dating anyone at all – acting like a fucking crazed exterminator. If you showed your face I was laying traps and poison down everywhere hoping I’d kill you off and finally be happy. Or at least, maybe I’d stop feeling guilty all the time.
I never did. And I’m glad for that now, because I do see your worth…
But. Old habits die hard. I never wanted you around, before, because I never saw why you should live.
I shouldn’t feel anxious, or unhappy, because I had the “perfect” partner, and not being able to be better for them showed disrespect for everything they were giving me.
I should get over my anxiety, because I was “safe”. There was no danger with this person; they would never hurt me, I was just a paranoid freak who couldn’t trust anyone (except that they would, they did and you were right).
I should get over my anxiety because I was putting an emotional burden on everyone.
Ironically, I wanted people to love you as well as me. Even though I despised you. Even though I warned people you were there, creeping in the corners of my brain, before they started dating me. Even though I spent every waking moment playing whack-a-mole (whack-a-rat) on my brain, smashing your tiny rat skull against the floor.
I know every letter to you seems to be an apology, but the letters I would send to others – ex partners, ex friends – were apologies too. I’d say sorry, again and again, for how my mental health had affected other people. Hurting other people was wrong; toxic, always toxic.
But as I grow older, even though I have hurt people (albeit not to the extreme I used to tell myself), I realise what I feel most these days is grief for how I treated myself. I didn’t deserve that. Fuck, you’d think I murdered someone for the way I beat myself up.
(I guess I nearly murdered you.)
Still, I can almost forgive myself; almost forgive you for what happened. Almost, because I’m still not entirely ready to let go of my guilt.
I guess I still like guilt more than you, sometimes.